I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

By Niki Messmore

I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent women mentors both as an undergrad at Bowling Green State University and during my masters at Indiana University. Indeed, I feel fortunate with how many women I’ve been able to work with in student affairs. But this summer I began to think about gender representation within higher education. Student affairs is a field that is predominantly female, yet many of our senior student affairs officers (SSAO) are white men (Engstrom, McIntosh, Ridzi, & Kruger, 2006).

So the question I have to ask is “Why aren’t there more women in senior student affairs positions?”

It seems strange, does it not? The field appears to embrace diversity and social justice – after all, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” are one of the core competencies of student affairs. So why is there a disconnect? Even from a mathematical standpoint, if there is a larger population of women within the field then one would assume that more women would be senior officers.

Is there sexism in student affairs?

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have an answer to these musings. I think this an area that we need to discuss as a field (#SAchillyclimate, anyone?).

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree with any of these explanations? Which ones would you add? How does the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities affect the promotion of women in student affairs?

Taking it further, if you identify as a man, do you think there is anything you (or your university) does that contributes to a chilly climate for women? What have you seen on your campus?

And if you identify as a woman, have you experienced any of these challenges to promotion or know someone who has?

Please leave a comment below. I welcome you to also join me in a conversation on Twitter (@NikiMessmore) under the tag #SAchillyclimate. Let’s talk this out. I’m interested in your experiences.

 

**”Winter is coming” – a pop culture reference from Game of Thrones. See the meme here

Advertisements
I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

The New Professional Life – Finding Balance (And Keeping It)

By Lauren Creamer

Not a single one of my graduate classes or experiences truly prepared me for life as a new professional.

… Okay. That’s only partially true. You just don’t know what it’s like until you live it.

This past July I began a my job in Residence Life at an elite institution that is approximately 13 hours away from my home in Rhode Island and 15 hours away from my graduate life in Boston.  I’m down here with a very limited support system and in full swing with my new job. As you can imagine (or potentially remember from your own experience), I’ve been a tad bit overwhelmed. And it wasn’t until this month began, that I finally started to get myself grounded.

Let me start by saying, that I have some of the world’s greatest frolleagues (you know, friend-colleagues). They have been incredibly supportive and great mentors throughout my transition. Without them, I would be completely lost.  

While I once would have liked to believe that I was the captain of my own ship, I’ve recently learned the following: you cannot do it alone. You cannot do it all. And you cannot forget that.

I typically work a 50+ hour work-week. It’s never less and sometimes it’s more. I answer emails all day, every day. I let my staff members text me with questions. I live where I work. I work where I live.  I continue to talk about work with anyone who will listen at any point in any day. And I’ve recently discovered just how stupid I am being. That is a great way to burn myself out in year one. So, what have I done (and what can you do) to bring back the balance?

  • Leave the office at dinner time. Yes, we all stay later. And that’s fine. But not at the expense of your own health. For the love of Pete, there will always be more work to do. Leave it and eat a sandwich.
  • Stop checking your email all night. Oh, hello iPhone, you devil, you. While it truly is wonderful to check email on-the-go, those nights where I let it charge and ignore the buzz are the ones where I am the least anxious and most relaxed. If there is an emergency, someone will call you.
  • Go off the grid on the weekends. It isn’t until I leave town that I truly feel free. No laptop. No “homework”. No nothin’.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I think I spent eight straight weeks avoiding asking more questions than I thought were appropriate. That was dumb. It’s better to know than to assume.  Plus, everyone wants you to do a good job anyway.
  • Call your friends and family. Do you remember that wonderful invention called the telephone? Use it. Friends and family keep us sane. At the end of a long, hard day, it helps to hear the voice of someone you love.

The moral of my story? Unplug when you need to and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Since I’ve recognized the need to change in me, my mood has improved, my overall happiness has increased, and I feel more confident in my position. (And it’s a good thing I didn’t agree to write more blog posts this season, otherwise there would have been more on my plate and less in my outbox).

The New Professional Life – Finding Balance (And Keeping It)

Another Running Metaphor

By Kathryn Magura

I know, I know, my title made you groan. But I got your attention right? Well, before you close your browser, hear me out. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about why I continue to try running. I don’t like it much, and I’m not particularly good at it. Quite the endorsement, right? Why don’t I quit? Good question.

Last night, a friend of mine sent me the following blog post about why one seasoned blogger thinks more women don’t follow a career as a computer programmer. After reading that post, it occurred to me: running is my new technology. Huh? Still with me?

While I think the aforementioned blogger is misguided in his thoughts on why women aren’t getting into computer programming (as evidenced by this previous post), it got me thinking about why I never thought I’d be good working with technology – which made the discovery that I am actually very good at technology that much more of a pleasant surprise!

I never thought I was good with technology, but I never really gave it a shot until I started working professionally. Why didn’t I think I was good with it? I don’t think anyone ever told me I was bad. And I’d certainly been an early adopter of the internet, and all the fun tools associated with it, but I guess I never equated that to technology skill. I didn’t really know if I had any skills with computers or technology until I started using it and my intuitive senses took over.

On many levels, my thoughts about my running ability parallel my initial thoughts on my skills with technology. I have never been much of a fan of running, partially because I never thought I was any good at it. Granted, I never really tried much, but the few times I HAD run, I wasn’t much of a fan. Sound familiar?

So there it is, I run because I never thought I would be any good at it. Am I good runner? Well, I haven’t quit yet, isn’t that what matters? Besides, I’m not competing with the person on the treadmill next to me, I’m competing with my own inner demons and self-deprecating lies that tell me I’m no good at running. I’ve believed those lies for far too long, just like I did when I didn’t think I was any good with technology. Don’t I owe myself the chance to prove myself wrong?

Another Running Metaphor

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!

By Kathryn Magura

Today I have the pleasure of highlighting a woman in the field of Student Affairs. As I ruminated on who to highlight, I decided to bend the rules (Sorry Kristen!) a little and highlight 2 women I have met via Twitter.

  1. Kate McGartland-Kinsella: Representing our friendly Canadian neighbours, Kate is passionate about serving students and championing for the success of other women. I had the pleasure to meet Kate last year at the ACUHO-I annual conference in Anaheim, CA, and immediately noticed how Kate is very genuine and friendly. I also think it’s possible that Kate is always smiling. Kate is a stalwart champion for finding ways to provide “PD for Free” opportunities for staff who may have limited resources for professional development. I recommend connecting with Kate on Twitter to learn how to be a selfless advocate for the success of others. Or if you liked the Sweet Valley High series growing up.
  2. Amma Marfo: Amma is a young professional whose authenticity and genuine spirit shines through in all her interactions on Twitter. Amma and I connected via the student affairs community on Twitter, but quickly learned that we have a lot in common: from a love for all things 30 Rock/Tina Fey to serving students on campus with an unwavering passion. Amma impressed me this past January when she decided to take on the “Snap Challenge” and live off of a food stamp equivalent diet for the month. If you want to push yourself past the traditional ways of serving students, I highly suggest you connect with Amma and check out her blog as well!

 

Kate and Amma inspire me, and I can say I’m a better person for having met them (well, Amma and I have yet to meet in person, but watch out when we do!). Who inspires you?

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!

Blog Prompt Monday: Dinner Party with Amazing Women

By Kathryn Magura

When I saw the blog prompt for today, I was really excited:

“What 5 women throughout history would you like to have a dinner party with and why?”

Seriously, how awesome is this question? Think about the amazing fun we could have at a dinner party! As I began to think about my answer, I became a little nervous at making the right choice. Who would I choose? How can I narrow it down? What would we all talk about?? I decided to just go with my gut, and pick 5 amazing women who I would love to meet, or to have met. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Tina Fey: I have been a HUGE fan of Tina Fey’s since her days at the helm of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. Tina’s quick wit, security in being a successful woman in her chosen field, and ability to be honest about who she truly is has been an inspiration to me. If you haven’t read Tina’s book, Bossypants, I highly suggest you do so now. I still want to be here when I grow up.
  2. Hillary Clinton: Confession time: I have not always been a Hillary Clinton fan. In fact, when she was running for President a fear years ago, I was a staunch opponent. Over the last few years, I am happy to say that I have developed a sense of respect and admiration for Hillary. Hillary is a strong woman, who isn’t afraid to be exactly who she is in a room full of powerful men. Hillary is a leader, a mother, a wife, and supporter to many communities. Not only am I a fan now, I truly hope she is able to run for President successfully in 2016.
  3. Princess Diana: I was always fascinated by Princess Diana as a kid. Here was this beautiful woman who survived a public divorce as a British royal. It seems like Princess Diana never got a moment of peace in her short life, and I sort of wish I could just give her a hug. It’s hard for me to believe she was only a few years older than I am now when she died.
  4. Clara Barton: Clara Barton is credited with bringing the Red Cross to the United States, and becoming a champion and health advocate for others. Apparently, I am distantly related to Clara Barton, and would love to have the opportunity to thank her for being a woman who committed her life to serving the needs of others (and see if the familial connection is true or not).
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt: When I was in the second grade, I remember writing a book report on the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Even at such a young age, I knew the woman I was writing about was wonderful and strong woman. What a mentor she was for future female leaders!

I could go on, but the prompt wisely asked me to pick 5, so I opted to go with the first 5 to come to mind. Think of the amazing conversations we would have at this dinner! Now your turn. Which 5 women would you invite to dinner?

Blog Prompt Monday: Dinner Party with Amazing Women

A Woman’s Right to Vote

By Kathryn Magura

It’s election day here in the United States! And while most of us will be relieved to have the daily deluge of political ads come to an end, how many of us take the time to reflect on the power of our vote? As a woman, I have not really thought much about what it means to even be able to vote. But not that long ago, women were literally giving their lives for the ability to vote.

Over time, my thoughts about voting have ebbed and flowed. I remember the first time I thought I was going to be able to vote, I was actually a day shy of being 18 in time for the election. I was annoyed because I wanted to vote and express my opinion (I’m guaranteed to always have an opinion about something). In my 20s, I became frustrated with politics, and started to think that all politicians were the same and didn’t really have my interests at heart. I was so disheartened, I considered not bothering to vote on more than one occasion. It didn’t help that George W. Bush was reelected one year on my birthday. Oh the joys of early November birthdays.

As I have gotten older, I think I have developed a stronger appreciation for the ability to vote. As a woman, I am very aware that we haven’t always had the ability to express our opinions through voting. While I have been tempted not to add my vote at times, I feel like I owe it to the women who have come before me and fought so hard for this right. I am also a firm believer that I have no real right to complain about politics (specifically politicians) if I don’t vote. What does complaining without action really get me? If I don’t like someone, I’m going to express my opinion through my vote for the other candidate.

This year marks 100 years since women have had the right to vote in Oregon: http://centuryofaction.org/. When I found this out, I knew that I owed it to the women’s suffrage movement over a century ago to ensure that my vote gets cast. It is a privilege to have this right, and one that should not be taken for granted.

So ladies, make sure you get out there and vote. I don’t care who you vote for (ok, I do. Please don’t vote for Mitt Romney), just vote! Share your voice!! And who is with me in hoping there is a Hillary Clinton/Michelle Obama ticket in 2016? 😉

A Woman’s Right to Vote

Women in Tech Profile: Alia Herrman

by Kristen Abell

One of the beautiful things about this series of posts is the fact that we can highlight women that don’t always get the spotlight – whether on our campuses or beyond. Today I hope to do just that in highlighting our web manager at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Alia Herrman.

I first met Alia back when I started at UMKC in 2007, and she was a graphic designer for our University Communications division working with the Women’s Center on our marketing. Since then, she has acquired all the skills necessary to be a pretty kick-ass webmaster (or mistress or, as I like to think of it, Web Wonder Woman – WWW), no small feat. Alia is my go-to whenever I have any question about websites, and she has yet to fail me in answering them.

I often say that there are two paths to becoming a WWW – either from the field of design or from the IT side. To be fair, these days there are those that come straight up the middle as web designers, but they haven’t quite taken over the field yet. One of the benefits of coming from the design side is an eye for usability – if a site is simple and looks good, it is often easy to use. I think this is a particular skill of Alia’s, as she frequently keeps in mind the needs of the user when designing or working with sites at our university. She has taken us through one progression of the website, and I anticipate she’ll see AT LEAST one more in her time here.

In addition to the challenges of mastering the web, Alia has taken the time to train a number of our other graphic designers to work with web designs. She also serves as a resource to those of us still tinkering with websites throughout the university. She leads our “web liaisons” team on campus to make sure all of our websites stay consistent with standards, and she finds ways to train and develop other WWWs (and WWMs) across campus to hone their skills with web design and maintenance.

In addition to her work as a Web Wonder Woman, Alia also enjoys gaming and is known (by me, at least) to be pretty wicked awesome.

Who are some of the unsung women in tech on your campus?

Women in Tech Profile: Alia Herrman